Last year, 2012, marked the 30th Anniversary of my graduation from music college (Berklee College of Music). It is a period in my life that I hold dear to my heart. I was young, single and LOVING the life in the city of Boston. Oh, and Berklee was fun too! LOL! It is also a time when much of what we use now in the world of music hasn't been developed yet. There was no MIDI back in 1982. Although there were computers, one needed a degree in "computer language" in order to effectively use them; computers were not available to the masses back in 1982 as they are now. With regards to electronic music, everything available to the masses was analog (including synthesizers) and I simply do not remember hearing the word "digital" back then. (But then again, I sometimes don't remember my own name. LOL!) I say all of this because I grew up composing music by using "Pencil to Manuscript Paper". Although I could be wrong, notation software was not invented then (for those crude computers).
Now, I KNOW that I am not alone with this type of history. Some of you around my age or older (and I say that with respect) learned composition the same way, using "Pencil to Manuscript Paper". However most of you, despite age and experience, seem to be using notation software as part of your process in composing music. To this I say, "Wow! I guess I'm behind the times!" LOL!
Now, I've owned notation software since around 1991/1992. I still have the original disks to Finale 1998 neatly tucked away in my studio closet (along with dozens of other now-outdated software programs). Actually, I owned another notation program purchased around 1991/1992, but I don't remember the name of that particular program. (I think it was called "Music Printer Plus", but I could be wrong.) Because I hold memories of being frustrated in using these earlier notation programs, because I hold memories of wanting to pull my hair out in trying to get them to reliably work without crashing my now-ancient computer, I've been reluctant to fully learn and use them now that they've been refined and made more dependable. I still use the old "Pencil to Manuscript Paper" method when composing the more "serious" (orchestral) projects. This is not to say that I down own or use notation software today! Since 1998, I own many upgrades & updates to MakeMusic's Finale program. I use to it create blank (and "reduced") band and orchestra staff paper. LOL! AND, I utilized a plug-in found in Finale 2011 as a compositional aide in creating instant "variations" (inversion, retrograde, etc.) of a melodic theme that I used in my last piece. But do I use a notation program as an the main process of composing music? No. It just seems all too awkward for me.
When I take the time to sit down and actually compose music (which has been rare these past few years), that pencil goes right to manuscript paper. It's a tedious process but it still works well for me. I use a LOT of "short-hand", of course, which makes the process go by a bit more quickly. But seeing those notes on paper actually helps me develop the piece. Being able to actually touch the paper also seems helpful, too. When I'm in the later stages of writing the piece, I like being able to refer back to "page 5" when I'm on "page 25" of the score to explore varying an already stated orchestral idea. Using "Pencil to Manuscript" paper generally helps me explore NEW ideas rather than the "same old, same old" that I often find myself using over and over again, especially when I compose off the top of my head (without the use of manuscript paper). For example, I'm able to explore "different" harmonic voicings and chord structures this way. I'm also able to SEE areas within a score where some kind of contrapuntal movement can be used to help further develop the piece. For me, I liken the blank manuscript paper to a blank canvass for the artistic painter. "A dab of blue here and a dab of yellow there" for the painter translates into "a melodic pattern using these instruments here while using this harmonic structure using another set of instruments there". The visual found in the blank manuscript paper ultimately seems to help me create the sound that will be heard by the listener.
I can't see how using a notation software program can be helpful for me as I go through the process of composing music. Whenever I do use the notation program, it's used at the very end of the "creative process" so that I can create the score and instrumental parts that will ultimately be read by other musicians. Yet, it is obvious for many of YOU that the notation program is not only your main way of composing music, but that it has become an important part of YOUR creative process too. I guess that at some point I want to explore this process.
Please, share how using the notation program has become an important part of YOUR creative process. How do you use it when writing music? Or, do you use the old "Pencil to Manuscript Paper" as I do??
Respectfully. . .